January 21, 2014

I'm not sure when CNN decided to book former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to appear on Crossfire, but it just so happened he was in studio right when they broke the news that former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife had been indicted in corruption charges for taking gifts in exchange for political favors. Who better to weigh in on McDonnell's problems than the man who was right in the thick of it himself? Or maybe not.

Gingrich is hopeless and it's a given that he was going to carry water for McDonnell and never ever mention that Cuccinelli has his own conflict of interest when it comes to McDonnell's legal problems, which cost the state's taxpayers over $90,000 to have someone else represent the governor.

I guess it's asking too much of Van Jones or Brad Woodhouse to have brought it up. Even though Cuccinelli was cleared of any criminal charges, he was still receiving gifts from the same wealthy donor that he failed to disclose. He's not some neutral observer as he was treated here, where they only briefly mentioned that opened the case.

Gingrich of course also did his best to dismiss both McDonnell and Christie's problems as just "big government" overreach and criminalizing politics as usual.

GINGRICH: But first we have some breaking news about another, quote, "scandal" involving a Republican governor. Late today, the former Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell, and his wife were indicted on charges of illegally accepting gifts. McDonnell calls it a false indictment and, from my early read of the charges, this may end up being another example of overreach by President Obama's Justice Department.

This news broke shortly after Governor Chris Christie was sworn in for a second term. Despite the Democratic overreach there, in New Jersey, in an impressive speech, Christie rose above the bridge scandal, at least for today.

JONES: OK, Newt. Here we go. Look, you guys can try to posh this up. I think the Republican Party is in real trouble tonight. If you think about it, during the shutdown they say, "We might have some wacked (ph) old birds in the Congress, but we've got these great, strong governors." Now we've got the governors in trouble, too.

We've got to get to the bottom of this tonight. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got Democratic strategist Brad Woodhouse. Glad to have you back. And Republican Ken Cuccinelli. He's Virginia's former attorney general. Let's go to you.

Now listen, you've worked very closely with Governor McDonnell. A lot of people said that his troubles really held you back in terms of your own race to be the governor. What's your reaction to these indictments tonight?

CUCCINELLI: Well, certainly, they cause challenges for us all of us in Virginia. And we'd like to think of ourselves -- we were talking about Virginia and New Jersey tonight.

We like to think of ourselves as a pretty smooth-running, clean state. Doesn't mean everything goes the way we all want it to all the time. This puts a dent in that. And that's not something we're happy to see with the history we've got, which has been pretty darn good.

I agree with Newt's comments, especially when I see a first lady indicted. I'm going to want to see more of those details. The feds not sharing this stuff with us when they're pursuing it. I think this one is still going to be unfolding in terms of the political versus bad behavior comparison that -- that we're going to see...

JONES: You started your own investigation, though, as an attorney general, looking at some of these gifts. I mean, if you look at the list of these gifts, very long list of gifts. The allegations are the first lady was actually helping to facilitate the relationship.

I don't know. I mean, from my point of view, I am very curious how did this -- I mean, you were on your way to being governor. This kind of behavior took over headlines. How do you feel now, seeing this go this far?

CUCCINELLI: Well, I don't think any of us are really surprised to see an indictment come out, largely because this is leaked thoroughly since the summer. Leaks suggests almost unintentional. And I'm not sure that's the case. It's been bleeding out for more than six months.

JONES: Are you saying Obama...

CUCCINELLI: I don't think anybody's surprised.

JONES: Are you saying the Obama administration is running itself out there, trying to make this worse than it is?

CUCCINELLI: I don't think make it worse than it is. It is what it is. But certainly, to drag out the pain and the death by a thousand cuts. I think that's certainly...

GINGRICH: I think every American has to be worried about the power of the government if they decide to come after you. And in this case, the fact that they have indicted the first lady, which I'm not sure of other cases where the person is not an office holder, doesn't have the legal obligation...

CUCCINELLI: You mentioned the gifts investigation that I began. The person with the obligation with respect to gifts is the office holder.

JONES: Absolutely.

CUCCINELLI: I don't think that surprises anyone.

JONES: As a former prosecutor, you admit, though, if there is a conspiracy between the governor and the first lady to solicit these gifts, that's a bad thing. You think that's pretty bad, don't you?

CUCCINELLI: Of course, it's a bad thing.

WOODHOUSE: I think if you saw Governor McDonnell's statement today, he didn't really challenge the charges. He said that his conduct wasn't illegal, but -- which raises some real issues about the law -- the law in Virginia if you're allowed, as a sitting officer, to go out and solicit these type of gifts and accept these -- accept these types of gifts.

I think the bigger problem here for the Republican Party is what Van eluded to. You know, it was a year ago that the RNC came out with a -- you know, a rebranding effort. They came out with a report, and they said that they were going to do more outreach and that they were -- you know, they were going to be more open to policy disagreements. Now there's nothing to indicate that that's happen.

But they also said we need to look at states for laboratories and Republican governors for leadership. The past two chairmen of the Republican Governors Association, one is under federal indictment and one, Chris Christie, is under federal investigation. So they might have to look elsewhere for leadership.

GINGRICH: Let's go -- let's go saying (ph) that, because I realize that, since Christie was the one candidate who was beating Hillary Clinton there is a particular eagerness among Democratic strategists.

Isn't it a fact that what you have right now is a very tiny problem compared to the normal problems of large governments? You have several of his people who were really stupid who did something for four days that's really indefensible. But it's pretty hard to imagine that Chris Christie is going to be caught up in having personally directed closing the bridge lanes to punish the mayor.


CUCCINELLI: Bringing together, same things.

WOODHOUSE: First of all, I don't think anyone that waited in that traffic or waited for an ambulance or a first responder thinks that that was a minor -- minor incident.

And look, I think it stretches credulity to think that, you know, the person that's your deputy chief of staff, that's across the hall from you, that toured the state with you the day these lane closures occurred just did this. But you know...

GINGRICH: Just want to put this in motion for a second. OK. And I'm not making light of the people. I saw somebody two days ago who was actually caught in the traffic. So I'm not making light of it.


GINGRICH: But as somebody who I assume would defend the administration, which had over 5 million Americans writing letters saying they were losing their insurance, it's a little hard to look at the scale of chaos of Obama care and then turn and say, "Now, this Chris Christie guy, you have to really worry about that bridge problem."

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